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Inbox: It'll be fascinating to watch

A hearty congrats

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Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford

Bob from Ocean View, DE

Hiatus ... funny word. Would you guys come back for a "Packers Unscripted" special edition if major news broke prior to your pre-draft episode?

Perhaps, but only if we're both here when the news breaks, which given my track record is a questionable proposition.

Harry from Chandler, AZ

Hi II. What happened to Mike's Mid-Week Chat?

Also on temporary hiatus. Inbox was a big enough challenge this week. Answering live questions was just going to serve as added punishment.

Gary from Cross Plains, WI

Looks like Hackett is leaving for Denver. Certainly what Russ has to do for the cap with players close to AR has a big impact. But how much do you think turnover in coaching staff will impact AR's decision?

First off, a hearty congrats to Coach Hackett. It's a tremendous career achievement, having started in the NFL as an offensive quality control coach for Tampa Bay in 2006 when his dad was the QB coach there (fun fact: the linebackers coach on that Bucs team was Joe Barry). The Rodgers rumors will run rampant now, and I have no idea how this will turn out. LaFleur said Monday he would promote from within to replace Hackett as offensive coordinator, and the obvious candidates are Luke Getsy and Adam Stenavich. It's possible both will become offensive coordinators now, one here and one in Denver. We'll see.

Jonathan from Franklin, WI

Throughout the regular season and approaching the playoffs, players and coaches always made it a point to defer comments about future games and give 100% of their attention to the upcoming game. I am having trouble dispelling the notion that Coach Hackett's traveling, interview preparation and thoughts of his future played a key role in the failure of our offense not being effective. Your thoughts?

Sorry, but that's a copout. The offensive staff had 10 assistants, including Hackett. The Packers had coaches miss practices and games this year due to COVID or other issues and everything held together fine.

Dave from Waterford, OH

Shanahan would have "words" with Elway. Holmgren would call out Favre. Walsh cut Montana no slack. Noll and Bradshaw. Parcells and Simms. Belichick/Arians would/does chastise Brady; Tom "The GOAT" Brady, for gosh sakes! Sometimes I wonder if LaFleur's seeming deference, for whatever reasons, to Rodgers, is what prevents the Packers from taking that next step. I will always believe that if Holmgren stayed, the Packers would have won another Super Bowl, maybe a couple more, with Favre.

I don't disagree with your last statement. But regarding the head coach/QB dynamic, I wouldn't assume what LaFleur says to the media, or what the cameras catch on the sideline, is the extent of his evaluation and coaching of Rodgers. With any team, there's a ton going on behind closed doors that no one else sees or hears about.

JR from East Moline, IL

The AFC must have the QB crystal ball. Mahomes, Allen, Herbert, Burrow. Good luck to the AFC South if they don't find someone (not sure what's going on with the Watson fiasco). I can't think of any young bucks in the NFC that stick out to me.

Dak Prescott will be 29 and Kyler Murray 25, respectively, when next season begins. Those are the only "young" QBs in the NFC I can think of who have led their teams to double-digit win seasons.

Kevin from Indianapolis, IN

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my gut says that Russ Ball and Gutey have been strategizing around the salary cap for many months now and have planned for every contingency under the sun. Maybe we should trust in their expertise?

Sounds like a plan, Stan … I mean, Kevin.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Wes mentioned the new league year begins March 16. Is that the day when all teams must be under the salary cap, and also what is the date that teams must declare their franchise tag by if they use it?

Correct, March 16 is when teams must get their top 51 contracts under the cap. Franchise or transition tags must be applied between Feb. 22 and March 8.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Does length of service with a team enter into the compensatory pick formula? Say De'Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas compared to Davante Adams or Lucas Patrick?

No.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

This question may be a year early. Because Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage were both first-round selections, are the Packers allowed to pick up the fifth-year option on both players for 2023?

Yes, and the question is only a few months early. The deadline to do so for them is May 2 of this year.

Mike from Chicago, IL

Mike: How about a baseball commercial break? Do you know any members of the BBWAA? Do they honestly believe Cooperstown is some institution filled with only saints and model citizens so much so they will leave out the greatest hitter of his or, arguably, any generation? As an article I just read asked, how can baseball tell the story of its history without including Barry Lamar Bonds?

It's a complicated issue, and to me, being a rotten person and undermining the integrity of the sport are two very different things. Regardless, it's not the Hall of Fame's job to tell the history of baseball based on the players it inducts. Back in 2009, the late, great(est) Henry Aaron said, "There's no place in the Hall of Fame for people who cheat." That works for me.

Frogger from Marinette, WI

With a couple setbacks with David Bakhtiari's knee, is his career in jeopardy?

I've heard nothing along those lines.

CSM from La Crosse, WI

I'm dismayed to hear many, even some Packers media, point to the fumble as the turning point in the game, as if that was the reason for the loss. Our MVP quarterback and stellar offense and coach have overcome much more than a fumble in their 13-win season. Heightened intensity? Of course. Aaron has said he likes that and knows he can win in those kind of situations. Yes, ST was inept, but I hope we do not pin Saturday's woes on a fumble.

I absolutely hear what you're saying. But it wasn't defined as a turning point when it happened, it became a turning point precisely because they didn't overcome it as they'd overcome prior missteps all season.

George from Manassas, VA

Mike, two questions please. Coach LaFleur alluded twice to decisions of who was up affecting special-teams performance. Did you see from the film who was new to teams who might have underperformed? Also, earlier in the year, when they replaced the long snapper, you commented you were surprised it took so long. Besides the early problems with FGs and maybe both Saturday's blocks, did you see an improvement between the two?

I felt the long-snapping was rather inconsistent all season, before and after the switch. On the blocked field goal and blocked punt, I believe the responsible players (wing blocker and personal protector, respectively) had played special teams and those roles plenty before. I'm not as sure on the Samuel kickoff return to midfield how much personnel change had taken place on the coverage unit.

Ron from Mitchell, SD

Good morning Mike and Wes. Was Kyle Shanahan brilliant with some specific plan to attack our weakest link – that being special teams? Or was it just luck that allowed them to make two plays when they needed to? Just wondering if the 49ers employed some special tactics against our special teams to affect the outcome of the field goal and the punt? Special teams was our only weakness so why not single that out?

The Packers gave opponents every reason to scrutinize the special-teams operations down to the last detail, and to put extra effort into attacking them certain ways. That's what happens once breakdowns are on film and you haven't proven they're shored up.

Greg from Bordentown, NJ

Hey Mike, just to follow up on Rudy's question about future cap decisions. I don't want to discount Rasul Douglas' stellar contributions, but I think we have to remember we have Eric Stokes and Jaire Alexander under contract. So if I had a choice I'd prioritize De'Vondre Campbell for re-signing defensive free agents.

All else being equal, that makes sense.

Mike from Las Vegas, NV

Thank you for posting the list of free agents. I have to stop listening to sports talk radio. After seeing that list, it does not seem like doom and gloom nor a rebuild. Last year we had to decide between Linsley and Jones. This year it's Adams and well...Adams. Sign Davante and the rest falls in place. I'd love to hear who you think the key players are to retain beyond that.

It's not as simple as looking solely at the free agents. There are players under contract who might have to be released due to the cap crunch. We'll just have to see how it plays out. One correction, though. I listed the free agents on offense and defense but neglected to mention Corey Bojorquez. He's a pending free agent as well.

Jason from Austin, TX

Insiders, I'm not sure if the NFL addressed this since the last time it happened (I think Baltimore pulled if off a year or two ago), but what the Bills really should have done is bear hug every receiver after the snap. Take the 5-yard holding penalty because it'll cost the other team at least five extremely valuable seconds they won't get back. Is that still allowed?

A defense could do that for a play or two, sure. My only caution against that strategy would be setting yourself up to get absolutely zero benefit of the doubt from the officials on a possible DPI during the inevitable Hail Mary on the final play.

Peter from Chippewa Falls, WI

More often than not it seems the Packers beat themselves in the postseason with dumb decisions from players or coaches. Bostick trying to field the onside kick. McCarthy not going for two after the miracle Hail Mary at Arizona. LaFleur kicking a FG to give the ball back to Brady with two minutes left and the Packers still needing to get a TD. Special teams unable to execute fundamental blocks on FG attempts and punts. When will this team stop beating itself in the postseason?

I totally understand the frustration, but you're making a lot of assumptions about decisions automatically leading to certain outcomes from the past. I'm not absolving Bostick, but it's long been forgotten that even if he does his job blocking and Jordy recovers the onside kick in Seattle, the Packers aren't simply kneeling out a win. There was 2:07 on the clock and the Seahawks had one timeout left, so the offense still would've needed a first down, which it hadn't gained in the last two possessions. While going for two in Arizona or on fourth-and-goal last year can be reasonably argued, neither choice guarantees success. It's all part of the mix, I get it, but to simply say, "If he decides to do this, the Packers would've won," is misguided.

Austin from Appleton, WI

I agree that the playoffs are a crapshoot, but I'd sure like to be on the winning end of the biggest of them again soon.

All you can ask for is a seat at the table and a pair of dice. I resigned myself to that a long time ago.

Steve from Toronto, Canada

So if my research is correct, this will be the first time in NFL history that the same stadium hosting the Super Bowl will also be hosting the conference championship game. The LA sports fans really better rally around this opportunity. Surely they won't allow the SF fans to invade SoFi like they did in Week 18, right?

It'll be interesting to see. There are reports that secondary market ticket activity indicates SoFi could be two-thirds Niners fans on Sunday.

Scott from Wausau, WI

Rodgers/Brady might be coming to an end, but the future is bright, at least in the AFC. Mahomes/Allen was a classic. With Herbert and Burrow in the wings, there are a lot of great QBs to look forward to. The NFC doesn't have the young studs like the AFC at this point. I'm all in for Matt Stafford to win a SB though. A classy guy, who spent years in purgatory up in Detroit. He deserves his shot.

You could argue no QB in the league entered this season with more pressure on him than Stafford, given the Rams' approach to roster building and the fact that he'd never won a playoff game. He's now on the brink of delivering. It'll be fascinating to watch if he can take this to the finish line.

Laura from Pittsburgh, PA

Now what?

Well, the next Inbox column I write will be Sunday night (for Monday morning) while watching the conference title games. So send in your thoughts during/after the games and we can talk about some other teams at least for a day. Deal?

Darrin from Cataract, WI

Regardless of the outcome I am grateful for this organization and Wes and Mike. Day in and day out you churn out top-notch content. Of course, I'd like for the Packers to be playing this weekend but it won't wreck my life. It was a wonderfully entertaining season.

Thanks for the kind words, and I'd like to acknowledge everyone who reached out over the past few days to express similar sentiments about us and our packers.com team. Please know even if your comments weren't posted they were appreciated. As to your last line, yes … yes it was.

Scott from Hamlin, NY

Counter proposal for all those whining about OT rules. No more OT. Ties are ties. In the playoffs, if there's no winner at the end of regulation, both teams are eliminated.

That genuinely cracked me up. Happy Friday.

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